126. Crusader Kings

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The motley takes on the political challenges in Montreal.

"You ever make a wild wager with yourself? Games have a way of infiltrating how we see the world…"

Monday morning dawns in The Spark with the usually not-early-rising Zistor Flexx sitting in the Exhaust, waiting for Ignite to arrive. When Patches is the first in, he announces his intention to make sure everyone at the freehold has their proper job. The only member who is unable to arrive promptly is Sophia, awakening next the newly-minted Baron Xaeron with her chimera, Mab, glowering at her. Mab is obviously upset by Sophia's impending marriage, even going so far as to have written a piece of music for them to perform together, with Sir Xaeron providing the "silence". Sophia indulges her chimerical companion, telling her that they'll never be apart: "you're the music of my life, Mab." But the sidhe insists that her husband-to-be and her chimerical harp sit down to lunch together to get to know each other.

Zistor gathers everyone together in the Exhaust to lay down the law about the Spark: as members of House Dougal are going to be coming in to use the workshop now, he insists that they treat all of the Spark residents (and its equipment) with respect. And, of course, they'll all need official titles! Sophia is an ambassador of sorts, and is named Chatelaine; Patches is already the Steward; Braum will defend the freehold's honour as its Champion; Xaeron will be in charge of defending the Balefire as Thane; Talus is named Reeve; Dr. Sayley will be the official Chiurgeon; and a sleeping Kyoko is titled the Operations Manager.

The freehold then receives another unexpected visitor: Lord MacAllistar has returned! He lays out several large political issues to the motley, hoping for their aid. First, he notes that some believe that Homefires, being High Queen Lenore's winter home, is too close to the crown to be independent, which casts a shadow over the Golden Braid. With so many members of the Companionship living in Montreal, perhaps there is a way to move the Headquarters here? He acknowledges that Patches' perspective on the situation was invaluable, and that he can't wait for her to join the Braid. He asks Braum to design her trial, noting that pain and sacrifice are both necessary qualities of membership.

MacAllistar also points out that the Golden Braid is necessarily apolitical, but he can't ignore the shifts taking place in the Duchy of Many Rivers. Duke Granville won't be staying in Cross' Shadow forever, and what will happen to Faerilyth, currently ruling over the Duchy from the Chateau Frontenac? When the motley asks why such a political shift is cause for alarm, MacAllistar tells them that right after the Resurgence in 1969, the County of Cross' Shadow was to be a storehouse for House Balor, an UnSeelie house renowned for their vicious natures. What happens when Duke Granville's influence on the county wanes? Would House Balor come back?

As the Gwydion leader leaves the Spark, the motley are left to mull over their options. Before they are able to come to any decisions, Sophia and Patches express concern for Kyoko, who seems to be even more exhausted to usual. Patches tries to get Kyoko's secret out of her, but the pooka insists that she just hasn't slept well. Privately, Sophia asks to venture into her dreams, to which Kyoko agrees. Meanwhile, Xaeron and Mab have their lunch date, and Braum announces to the group that he has an ambitious idea: build a new freehold in Cross' Shadow! He will need to ask permission from Duke Granville, of course, but the troll sets to work mapping out the County, and possible pockets of Glamour.

Sophia tells Xaeron of her desire to become the Countess of Cross' Shadow, and the trepidation she feels about rocking the boat, and about potentially making him feel like a pawn in her political game. But Xaeron is ready to support her, and even asks Patches and Braum whether they will support her ambition as well. Before heading to Heart's Light, Sophia has one last responsibility: help Kyoko, if she can.

Venturing into the pooka's dreams, she sees that Kyoko is frantically coding… making something, she believes. When Sophia helps Kyoko to turn the code into a product, they both discover that it is a kite shield of impressive make. Sophia dreamcrafts the shield in the waking world, surprising Kyoko. Even if it isn't done, Sophia tells Kyoko, she can rest now in the knowledge that she knows what she is pursuing.

The motley are whisked away to Heart's Light by a car provided by Faux, the new assistant there. He is gracious, even going so far as to walk them to Duke Granville's office. The motley present their news to the Duke: first, they inform him of all of the Spark's new title-holders, which he accepts as part and parcel of his agreement with Zistor Flexx. Secondly, Braum outlines his idea of finding a new home for the Braid in Cross' Shadow. While Duke Granville seems anxious about the idea to Sophia, he expresses nothing but good wishes to Braum. The Duke seems distracted, and eventually reveals the reason: he will be leaving Cross' Shadow soon. He has been recalled from retirement by House Fiona and will be retaking control of the Duchy from Faerilyth… and he does not seem happy about it. When Sophia expresses her ambition to one day become Countess of Cross' Shadow, the Duke is overjoyed. "Thank Daan," he mutters, head in hands. "Now it's someone else's problem…."

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